Girls' actor-writer-director, Lena Dunham, took to the podium at SXSW’s Convention Centre earlier to share a deeply entertaining, motivational onslaught of a keynote talk. The festival only began daily speeches this year and Dunham, whose film Tiny Furniture won her the Narrative Feature and the Chicken & Egg Emergent Narrative Woman Director Award prizes here in 2010, was introduced as the premier choice to give a talk about being the embodiment of the SXSW sprit.
Despite declaring herself pretty sleep-deprived and disorientated from travel, as well as coated in glitter from her hosting turn on Saturday Night Live this weekend, Dunham was clearly still as enthralled with Austin’s annual arts festival in 2014 as she was on her first visit to her "spiritual home" in 2009. Here are ten things we took away from Dunham's biggest SXSW talk yet.
That nasty comments and @ replies to controversial posts won’t hurt you – unless you say something stupid
Dunham twice touched upon the current minor controversy over her own failed Twitter gag about molestation (she tweeted "Please tell that to my uncle, mister. He's been making me!" to a user who told her she didn't always have to get naked). Dunham handled her failed joke with good grace on Twitter, but at SXSW she revealed that each @-reply regarding it felt like a dagger to her heart.
Hollywood still isn’t making it any easier for female actors to find good roles
Dunham revealed that her female Girls stars were struggling to be cast as anything other than a weak reproduction of their television personas – whereas their male co-star, Adam Driver, was inundated with offers to play a vast spectrum of humanity. (In fact, Driver has just been cast in the new Star Wars film.)
"The world is ready to see Adam as a million different men, playing good guys and bad guys and sweet guys and scary guys... It's not ready to see Allison Williams, Zosia Mamet or Jemima Kirke stretch their legs in the same variety of diverse roles," Dunham said. "This is not a knock on Adam's talent, which is utterly boundless and he's exactly the actor who should be doing all this. It's a knock on a world where women are typecast and men can play villains, Lotharios and nerds in one calendar year and something has to change and I'm trying."
Lena Dunham is capable of inspiring a wave of new female filmmakers
Dunham’s speech, which focused on her creative education as a filmmaker, could do with being screened at high schools around the world – if only to make the oft-dismissed choice to pursue filmmaking a less intimidating career option. The Q&A session at the end of Dunham’s talk revealed the audience to be dominated by young filmmakers, who had already been inspired by her story and set on beginning their own.
What Lena Dunham does not care for at all
Ratings, Republicans, Deadline Hollywood, pre-wrinkle anxiety and male comedians bemoaning women’s inability to be funny.
SXSW made Lena Dunham, kinda
Lena Dunham gave us the full story of her career-forging relationship with SXSW, from her initial rejection from the film festival to acceptance with her first feature, Tiny Furniture - including an anecdote about how she was babysitting when she received the news over the phone, which prompted the child she was minding to stab her in the leg. From her award wins to the premiere of the first three Girls episodes in 2012, she revealed how the festival has hosted her finest moments, and said that she got to where she is through the connections she made at SXSW with like-minded collaborators and crew members.
That there is no right way to be a director. They can even say sorry
Dispelling one of the most common myths about holding a position of authority in a cutthroat business dominated by alpha male personalities, Dunham stated that you can still treat people well, apologise on set, and be a decent human without losing the respect of your crew. This might not sound like a big reveal, but with female directors still forming an embarrassingly low percentage of the filmmaking world, it's a fact that needs restating, if only because too many girls play down their aptitude for filmmaking after being brought up to be sweet and compliant (i.e. not your typical director traits(.
These are Lena Dunham’s favourite Girls parodies:
What Dunham sometimes cares about
Reviews, fashion blogs, calories and Twitter replies.
That we can’t wait to get stuck into her book Not That Kind Of Girl, out in October
While rousing the audiences’ creative energy in the exhibition hall, Dunham also revealed herself to be even funnier than you’d expect. Slipping little anecdotes about her life so far into her talk, like the time she spent crossing the country repeatedly to spend time with an Adderall-addicted ex, she proved that she doesn’t need a writer’s room, camera crew or a cast to be an exceptionally entertaining person to spend time with.
That this generation of SXSW attendees have chosen Lena Dunham – not Edward Snowden – as their voice
If you went by the relative size of the lines, that is.